You are currently viewing Super Bowl 2022: The crypto ad takeover – Protocol

Super Bowl 2022: The crypto ad takeover – Protocol

FTX, Crypto.com and others are advertising on the biggest media event of the year. But crypto companies eager for new customers aren’t stopping at the Super Bowl.
FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and others have booked commercial time during the most-watched media event of the year.
If you’re already feeling inundated with crypto ads, don’t watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.
FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and others have booked commercial time during the most-watched media event of the year. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals are playing at SoFi Stadium — another player in crypto buying — and the point-of-sale systems at the venue are run by Square, whose parent company renamed itself Block to emphasize its push into bitcoin.
But you won’t get any relief after the Super Bowl ends, either. Crypto’s advertising push is just getting started. There have been SafeMoon billboards in Times Square, bitcoin ads on Hong Kong trams, even crypto promos inside fortune cookies. It’s just going to grow, as crypto exchanges make a grab for mainstream customers.

“Fortune favors the brave,” intones Matt Damon in a much-ridiculed ad for Crypto.com that compared buying dogecoin to scaling Mount Everest. More like fortune favors the advertised.

The Super Bowl takeover is drawing comparisons to 2000’s “Dot-Com Bowl,” when a fifth of the ad space went to internet startups. A lot of those companies went bust, Jef Loeb, brand strategist for marketing firm Brainchild Creative, points out.
That said, the Super Bowl is “the single most efficient media buy on the planet. The number of impressions delivered in that period of time is unmatched by any other standard, by any other media opportunity out there,” Loeb told Protocol.
Super Bowl ads are famously expensive, going up to $7 million for a 30-second slot this year, because of their broad reach. It’s not a surprise that they’re sold out this year. Last year’s ads generated over 6.3 billion TV impressions, 26 million online views and 64 billion social impressions.
And it’s not like Sunday’s spots will be a one-off. Since January 2020, over $112.9 million has been spent on national crypto ads, according to iSpot.tv data as reported by Bloomberg.
Jed Meyer, senior vice president at Kantar, a data analytics and brand consulting firm, told Protocol that this year’s ads logically target customers with “investable assets.” (Besides the Super Bowl’s reach, football has relatively wealthy viewership.)
And why now?
“This is a new category; you have to establish a brand. Why do I want to trade crypto with Gemini versus FTX? Versus Crypto.com?” Meyer said. “They’re going to try to persuade me, either through their pitch people or through their messaging, that I want to pick them.”
Binance is mocking its rivals with a celebrity ad campaign that attacks celebrity ad campaigns. Basketball player Jimmy Butler and musician J Balvin tell viewers to do their own research.
It’s not just TV spots. Crypto.com scored naming rights to L.A.’s Staples Center for $700 million, FTX inked $135 million and $17.5 million deals for naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena and the field at California Memorial Stadium. Other crypto firms have also partnered with sports leagues in sponsorship deals.
A different reason why crypto companies may be flooding the airwaves and filling billboards is that another mass medium with broad reach, online advertising, has proven harder to tap into.

In the wake of a host of crypto scams related to initial coin offerings, Google, Facebook and Twitter instituted bans on crypto ads in 2018. Those restrictions were substantially loosened last year, but the rules put in place still make it difficult for some firms to advertise.
Under Facebook’s crypto ad policy, most advertisers need prior written permission, with some limited exceptions. Google started allowing some cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets to advertise. But Google then tightened its rules to require FinCEN or chartered bank registration, and still doesn’t allow ads for DeFi protocols or specific coins.
Meera Iyer, senior vice president of marketing at Exodus, a crypto wallet provider, told Protocol that it is still not allowed to advertise because of the nature of its product, so the company’s had to rely on organic growth instead.
Iyer added that she hopes that big tech companies and other advertising media will learn how to better differentiate between serious crypto companies and scammers.
Corporate rules are one thing. Government regulators across the globe are circling to tighten things up on crypto advertising, too.
Government leaders from countries all around the world have called for more regulation, citing concerns about fraud and scams. Spain and Singapore have introduced guidelines and regulations that impose limitations on crypto ads.
The U.K. is planning a crackdown on misleading crypto ads to bring them to the same standards that apply to other financial promotions. A number of ads has already been banned by the country’s Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled they were irresponsible.
The U.S. government has not issued stringent regulation for crypto ads, but many are speculating on how much of a priority crypto ad regulation is, considering the other battles it is facing with regulating crypto itself.
Loeb, the brand strategist, is skeptical that the limits will matter: “History offers cold comfort that awareness will lead to action.”
Meanwhile, with money continuing to pour into the sector — Andreessen Horowitz is reportedly raising a $4.5 billion crypto fund, and FTX is starting a $2 billion corporate venture fund — it seems likely that firms eager to capture growth will keep placing ads wherever they can.

Get access to the Protocol | Fintech newsletter, research, news alerts and events.

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Thank you for signing up. Please check your inbox to verify your email.

Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.
A login link has been emailed to you – please check your inbox.
Veteran DEI expert Iesha Berry outlines the challenges of diversity, equity and inclusion work in tech.
DocuSign appointed Iesha Berry as its first-ever chief diversity and engagement officer.
Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.
Earlier this year, DocuSign made a little more room around the proverbial C-suite table. In March, the company announced it would appoint Iesha Berry as its first-ever chief diversity and engagement officer.
Though the role is new to DocuSign, it is far from new to Berry, who is a veteran in the space and has previously worked at Microsoft, Bank of America and Slalom. Her time in financial services, as well as at legacy organizations, has translated into a distinct reliance on data and strategy as it relates to tackling diversity and inclusion work. And though Berry brings 20-plus years of experience, she says she is still in a position of learning in her first 90 days of leading diversity, equity and inclusion at DocuSign.
Berry spoke with Protocol about what her first couple of months have looked like, how to structure your focus in a new leadership role and how to create more lasting systematic change within an organization.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Being the first to do this, how have you gone about setting a foundation for what you want this role to look like in your first 90 days?
I’m going into the role very similar to when I’ve gone into other roles, whether I was a first or not, because on some level as a person of diverse identity, both visible and nonvisible, there is always an additional weight of responsibility, particularly for me; probably not anything different from anyone else that is reflective of various diverse identities, as we all are, is that you want to make sure that what you do and how you show up creates space for others to come along behind you. And so because of that, I take it very seriously to spend time really getting versed and very deep and steeped in the organization’s business. And so while there is expertise that I bring as a DEI practitioner, more importantly, as a human capital executive, it is equally if not more important for me to become a student of the organization.
And so what I’ve done is spent these first 30 days, you know, probably about 60 days out from reaching 90 days, really understanding and studying the organization, meeting with our business executives, understanding their top three priorities from a business perspective, but then also [looking at] what that means from a people and culture perspective, because DE&I, as you know, is very much a business priority. And what we do around the employee life cycle and our business life cycle are inextricably connected, because at the end of the day you need the human experience to deliver an iconic product.
I think what’s interesting is, you did this at Bank of America as well as Microsoft. I’d love to know since you’ve been in tech and in finance, is it that different from industry to industry?
It is a different challenge with every new organization that I enter because I go into these opportunities with a learner’s mindset, not a knower’s mindset. Yes, there is a space of expertise that I bring, but at the end of the day, that space of expertise does not create opportunity for scalable change if you don’t understand the business.

At the end of the day, in every organization in my experience, across multifaceted industries, our goal was to always create a pipeline of talent that was reflective of our clients, our customers and our communities, create a dynamic and engaging experience that allows us to retain the talent that we are attracting within the organization and more importantly, leveraging that talent to create the next new innovations for that customer suite and all product — whether it was a technology or a new financial product.
How much of the first 90 days now is about the listening tour these days? Or are you finding that people are a little bit tired of the listening tours now?
I love that question, because it is equally about the listening tour as it is to drive to action. What I have learned and experienced that is really engaging for me at DocuSign is that the organization appreciates someone that listens and appreciates the historical context and the journey that DocuSign has been on. What we have to begin to do is marry our talk with … our action. I just hosted a session whereby we talked about theoretical data as well as practical solutions for amplifying and accelerating diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity, and we did that with a partner from McKinsey. So you’ve got to listen, but you’ve got to do. And you’ve got to bring the people along on that journey so they understand it is very important to me that we marry the talk with our walk.
Who are you leaning on and bringing in to help forge this path since it is new at DocuSign? What other resources are you leaning on right now to bring in as an example?
What I would say is that while I am the first chief diversity and engagement officer in the organization, this is not DocuSign’s first entrée into driving this work forward. What this is is an evolution of DocuSign’s visible commitment to driving action, and progress on diversity, equity and inclusion by bringing in a leader to shape, model and execute and operationalize our strategy around this space.

What I am also doing is, as we’re bringing in thought leadership, I’ve brought in individuals [and we] are connecting with people from McKinsey and Company. They have done a great deal of research in not only the space of diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity, but also sustainability and impact. And because my role was one that is marrying both of those areas, as well as diversity and recruiting, it is a unique set of three concentric circles. And at the center of it is what we do around equity. I’m also leaning on, in full transparency, my [personal] board of directors, CDOs that have gone before me and have done this transformational work, who have themselves been first and continue to be mentors of mine … Leaning on that cadre of individuals that have done this work is also mission critical, along with external thought leadership organizations that produce scholarly research that helps us to amplify the why behind our immediate or stated change in this space because we are a data-driven organization. What gets measured is what gets done. And helping to crystallize the story for people to act is always helped by data that is researched and validated.
What are the top data points that you’re excited to follow?
So what I would say is from a strategy perspective it’s a three-legged stool: it’s workforce, workplace, marketplace. What I am excited about being able to get very surgical on is not only our workforce data — those transactional pieces of data which is the hiring, the promotion, the retention and the development of talent within the organization — but it’s also what our employees are telling us vis-a-vis workplace and employee sentiment, and looking at employee engagement surveys relative to how they are experienced in the actual organization.

And looking at that from a perspective of the overarching DocuSign, but then also by our business units, in addition to what we’re learning from talent that is choosing to pursue their careers external to the organization — i.e., exit interviews — and coupling that data, workplace and workforce data with marketplace data. Because, as I started, this work is very much a business strategy and a business priority.
What have you seen, in your experience, that really works to get people not only to stay, but move up through the ranks at an organization?
While programs are important, at the end of the day it is about being able to look at and do a systemic assessment of those barriers to progress. And what I have seen to be successful and what I have done in other organizations is focus on what are the barriers to progress that exist within the employee life cycle, and address those barriers to create equitable access for those talents.
Now, it’s not a “one or the other,” it is equally a “both and.” So it’s assessing the systemic barriers that might exist within an organization that create the barriers to entry or growth within the organization, and it can also be coupled with development programs that are laser-focused on helping talent to continue to create leadership and leadership momentum in their career trajectory. That then gives them greater visibility for promotion and advancement within the organization.
I speak with a lot of younger organizations that are just now thinking about this, and maybe they are just now hitting the number of employees where they can do this deeper dive. Where does someone start with that systematic assessment, and how do they find where the breakdown is happening?
I’ll talk to you about the approach that I took in legacy organizations. We started with the feedback from the employees, but we also were continuing to monitor the entry into the organization, how individuals enter the organization through the hiring process and then through reporting and creating a rhythm for reporting to leadership as it relates to the overall representation.

And then again, to your point where you have enough of a population to be able to report without having any issues from a confidentiality perspective, is being able to say, “Here’s where we’ve got a problem. We’re beginning to see a reduction of leadership talent once they get into that entry level professional role to mid management, so what is it that we need to do to further assess there?” And so it really was about looking at every aspect of the employee life cycle, but first starting with what I call the VOE, the voice of the employee.
Last, a big overarching question is what can be done to see more CDOs thrive. Protocol has done research into the tenure of CDOs at some of the largest tech companies, and while some tech companies have done a really good job of getting them there and really integrating them into the fabric of the company, others have only been able to hold on to their CDOs for a year or so. What do you think needs to be in place at a company to make sure a CDO can really thrive and transform the business?
Is the CEO and his or her leadership team understanding that it is not the CDO’s responsibility to change the organization from a demographic perspective and employee experience perspective? The CDO is meant to be the culture catalyst that helps to accelerate and create that mirror for the organization to respond to the needs and the changing needs of the talent. That’s No. 1. It starts with leadership understanding that in one person does not the change reside.
Secondarily, as organizations are making those commitments to bringing in a CDO, is ensuring that you have within your organization the right conditions for the role to be successful. An example of that would be that leadership understands that accountability starts and ends with them: [It’s] not on [the CDO] to bring in X amount of diverse talent, but it is a shared responsibility among the leadership team, with the CDO being the conduit by which to drive that awareness, that engagement and action toward creating those opportunities for the organization to either go after the talent, develop the talent, nurture the talent and grow the talent.

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.
Sameer Sharma is the Global GM (Smart Cities & Transportation) for IOT Solutions at Intel and a thought leader in IOT/AI ecosystem, having driven multiple strategic initiatives to scale over the past 20+ years. Sameer leads a global team that incubates and scales new growth categories and business models for Intel. His team also focuses on establishing leadership across the industry playing a pivotal role in deploying solutions for the development of smart cities around the world—an important effort in furthering the goal of sustainability. These solutions include Intelligent Transportation, AI/Video, Air Quality Monitoring and Smart Lighting. With far-reaching impact, each of these solutions is providing local governments a plethora of data to enhance the daily quality of life for citizens while simultaneously promoting responsible practices to protect the environment. As a leading authority on Cities and AI, Sameer is a frequent keynote speaker at top global events and has been featured in publications such as Economist, Forbes, WSJ and New York Times. His high-energy talks cover pragmatic examples of impact and reflect his passion and belief that technology can and must be a force for good in our society. Sameer has an MBA from The Wharton School at UPenn, and a Masters in Computer Engineering from Rutgers University. He holds 11 patents in the areas of IOT and Mobile. He can be reached through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sameersharma/) or Twitter (@sameer_iot)
“We have a once-in-a-generation chance to build an infrastructure that equitably creates opportunities for Americans, instead of further isolating them. We must act.” – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Infrastructure Transformation: The Time is Now
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion investment in US infrastructure, is a “once-in-a generation” bipartisan law that will fund upgrades and modernization of U.S. transportation systems and physical infrastructure while expanding access to broadband internet access. It is also an opportunity explore how digital technologies can transform our infrastructure, making it more resilient, innovative, and efficient and providing more value to our communities, municipalities, and states. The underpinning of this transformation is the connection between transportation and public safety, economic strength, equity, and sustainability.
The potential of the IIJA to shape our future is immense; if we don’t spend the funds wisely, the effects will be felt for generations. Physical infrastructure alone does not fully address the diverse needs of our modern, information-driven economy and set us up for future success. Digital advancements, built on the ‘superpower technologies’ of IoT connected devices, 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, will be critical to the success of this infrastructure buildout. These technologies are available today, deployment-ready and are already foundational to many elements of our daily lives.

What is “Smart Infrastructure”?
The digital revolution is already here – transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Smart infrastructure is a key part of this revolution. It brings the power of the digital world to physical components like energy, public transportation, and public safety by using sensors, cameras, and connected devices to collect data and provide real-time information to city planners and other decision-makers. This powerful combination of physical upgrades and digital advancements will enable goals like Vision Zero, a multi-national road safety project that aims to reduce traffic and highway fatalities and serious injuries from over one million every year to zero. Bottom line: the next generation of infrastructure is as much about bits, bytes and transistors as it is about cement and steel.
We have entered an era where citizens, businesses and institutions understand the impacts and benefits that technology can bring to our daily lives. A clear indicator of the success of the IIJA act is whether communities choose to augment physical infrastructure upgrades with digital technologies to “future-proof” their investments. It is imperative that cities and communities become more sustainable, affordable, environmentally safe, and equitable, ultimately providing all citizens with a higher quality of life.
Equitable and Sustainable Development
Advances in infrastructure have driven growth and prosperity since the beginning of civilization. The basic structures, systems, and facilities that citizens use for transportation, water, energy, and communications are vital to economic and social development. However, these advances have not always been distributed equitably and have even disrupted communities and displaced tens of thousands of citizens in historically Black communities from Miami to Detroit. Meanwhile, lack of access to transportation hinders access to jobs, education, healthcare, and other vital services. According to a 2020 report by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 20% of Black households do not have access to an automobile and 24% of public transit riders are African American. We believe that access to transportation is an on-ramp to opportunities, economic prosperity and equality.

Meanwhile, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this percentage is predicted to grow. But cities are also a driver of climate change; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that they are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Smart infrastructure can ameliorate these effects by increasing the use of remote sensing devices to monitor air pollution, make recycling systems smarter, and reduce traffic congestion.
Why Intel – and Why Now
At Intel, we have an over 50-year history of manufacturing development and are a leading provider of edge-to-cloud technology. As a pillar of U.S. innovation, we understand the possibilities of combining digital technology with physical infrastructure upgrades. Over the last few decades, we have invested in a thriving ecosystem of partners and driven interoperable, open standards-based solutions. We are also working directly with cities and communities to solve issues such as transit capacity management.
We are deeply committed to helping our world face critical challenges like climate change, the digital divide, and lack of inclusion. Our RISE strategy defines our goal to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world that is enabled through technology and our collective actions. Earlier this month,, we committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We fully support the U.S. government’s vision to enable growth and prosperity for American people through IIJA funding.
Want to learn more about how smart infrastructure can support a more sustainable future for all? Visit us online for more insights on the power of technology to transform our world.
Sameer Sharma is the Global GM (Smart Cities & Transportation) for IOT Solutions at Intel and a thought leader in IOT/AI ecosystem, having driven multiple strategic initiatives to scale over the past 20+ years. Sameer leads a global team that incubates and scales new growth categories and business models for Intel. His team also focuses on establishing leadership across the industry playing a pivotal role in deploying solutions for the development of smart cities around the world—an important effort in furthering the goal of sustainability. These solutions include Intelligent Transportation, AI/Video, Air Quality Monitoring and Smart Lighting. With far-reaching impact, each of these solutions is providing local governments a plethora of data to enhance the daily quality of life for citizens while simultaneously promoting responsible practices to protect the environment. As a leading authority on Cities and AI, Sameer is a frequent keynote speaker at top global events and has been featured in publications such as Economist, Forbes, WSJ and New York Times. His high-energy talks cover pragmatic examples of impact and reflect his passion and belief that technology can and must be a force for good in our society. Sameer has an MBA from The Wharton School at UPenn, and a Masters in Computer Engineering from Rutgers University. He holds 11 patents in the areas of IOT and Mobile. He can be reached through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sameersharma/) or Twitter (@sameer_iot)
The answer often depends on whether company leaders’ choices are based on workplace values or on legal obligations.
A company’s responsibility in relationship-related situations depends mostly on whose opinion you ask.
Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.
For the last 15 years, Jayna Whitt has served as an attorney for Apple’s bulwark intellectual property team. After about a decade at the company, two children and a collapsing marriage, Whitt began a private romantic relationship with another Apple executive. They cooked meals together, took Whitt’s children on vacation together and kept their partnership a secret from their managers.
Eventually, the relationship soured. In an essay published last month, Whitt alleged escalating cycles of physical and emotional abuse that she said made her so afraid of her partner that she moved apartments, changed locks and bought herself a new phone and computer.
In the spring of 2021, Whitt reported her fears of her partner — and co-worker — to Apple, hoping the company might find some way to help. First, Whitt said that Apple told her to contact the police if she was afraid for her immediate personal safety. Then, when the investigation finally ended, Whitt found herself with a personal reprimand in her file: Apple concluded that she had allowed a personal relationship to interfere with her work, and her behavior during the investigation violated Apple’s code of conduct. Whitt told Protocol that Apple placed her on leave at the end of April and is investigating whether her behavior ever violated its workplace policies. Apple declined to comment for this story.

While most intimate partner relationships at work don’t end with allegations of abuse, the broad outline of Whitt’s story mirrors that of others: A relationship between co-workers moves outside of the office, crossing professional boundaries, and then turns rotten. Perhaps one or both of the people involved decide to ask their company for help; maybe they want their former friend or former partner moved off their team, or they feel that the company should punish the person they know to be in the wrong. And even if the relationship doesn’t devolve, sometimes it seeps into the workplace, affecting how people treat each other, shifting power dynamics between managers and their subordinates, or creating gossip that distracts from work.
With policies generally ambiguous about professional boundaries outside of work, and actual offices now more of a concept than a physical space, a company’s responsibility in these situations depends mostly on whose opinion you ask — and almost everyone agrees the solutions are not as straightforward as they seem.
Some academic experts told Protocol that companies should make decisions based on whether their employees feel like they have a safe work environment; others said that companies are so discreet about these policies that it is not possible to know if a standard exists. Several chief people officers and HR experts declined to comment because they weren’t comfortable speaking about how they handle interpersonal relationships on the record. And lawyers said that the boundary is very simple: If it’s not happening at work and it’s not illegal, it’s not really the company’s problem, and it’s certainly not the company’s legal responsibility.

“I don’t think we know in any systematic way what companies are doing there,” said Peter Cappelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school.

The ambiguity of these types of interpersonal situations and conflicts has made the outcome usually depend on a company’s experience and whether its leaders’ choices are based more on workplace values or on legal obligations. “The practices are mixed,” said Christine Porath, a management professor at Georgetown University who works with companies like Google to help them create workplaces where people treat each other with civility and respect. “Generally if you care about your people, you care about their well-being. And understanding where they are coming from and getting a better sense of what happened and getting involved to protect them, if needed, is a useful approach, I think rationally.”
One cybersecurity director — kept anonymous to protect her identity from co-workers who don’t know the details of her personal relationships — described to Protocol how she helped facilitate the hire of a close friend at her company. She and that friend eventually became roommates, and then they began dating. Though they both eventually left the company where they first began their romantic relationship, she was terrified that people would discover what they had done before they departed (even though they were not violating company rules.)
“It was extremely nerve-wracking and mentally very difficult for me as a leader to start dating someone who, despite having age parity with me, was further down the ladder than I was. Very, very stressful, and it took years for me to feel like I hadn’t done anything wrong,” she said.
Co-workers becoming more than just friends is something every company should expect. And employees bringing friends and family into the workplace isn’t just normal: It’s a practice that many people actively opt for because work takes up so much personal time and energy. “If you work at great places, you want your family and friends to join that cause with you, and that’s awesome,” Anita Grantham, head of HR at SaaS company BambooHR, told Protocol.
There are a few basic, widely accepted rules when family and people in public interpersonal relationships work together: They should never be on the same team, they should ideally have separate HR contacts and people working in the C-suite should never have romantic partners or family members at their company. “As an executive, I would never have a family member there,” Grantham said.

Yet those rules don’t account for situations like Whitt’s or the cybersecurity director’s. Grantham has found that in her experience, every situation has to be approached with caution and careful attention to the particularities of each individual, because each issue will be different from the last.
“We had a leader having a perceived affair with a subordinate, and everyone was talking about it: ‘They are spending time together, they were alone in the conference room, they were spotted at a restaurant bar on the property.’ And there was all this mischief being created” that led to workplace gossip, she said. Grantham addressed this situation by informing them both that their romantic relationship had to move outside of the workplace. While their relationship did not violate company rules or ethics, it was interfering with the workplace environment and the company’s values of workplace harmony, and that’s where Grantham believed she had a role to play.
“I don’t honestly care what you choose to do, but whatever you are doing is disrupting our harmony inside our workplace,” she said that she told them. “Raise your level of awareness to that. If you choose to have your drinks after work, could you take it off site?”
Grantham pulled that particular example from the 1990s. In 2022, “offsite” has a far more vague definition as remote work has become so entrenched in corporate culture.
“It’s hard to define the boundaries these days of work and non-work given, for example, online behavior,” Porath said.
Whitt agreed. “The whole work-from-home thing could have a very positive impact for women, but not if the company is not going to support the ramifications of that,” she said. When work moves outside of the formal office space, opportunities for people to mistreat each other and take advantage of the fact that the company can’t observe them expand — and Whitt believes that companies need to account for that in their policies and expand the range of resources available to their workers.

Grantham’s solution? Take advantage of the fact that companies have more information about their employees’ behavior than most people might assume. If an employee reports that someone else is using workplace tools to harass them or using company time or tools for their personal relationships, Grantham usually has access to data about when workers are online, what tools they’re using and even what they’re saying. “I hate using the term investigation,” she said. “[But] employees are generally naive about the level of intake we have. I can go to IT and pull down all of that information. If you go down the IT rabbit hole, it gets easy to see if someone is really working, or are they leveraging work tools for personal use.”
The employees on the other end of investigations like these don’t usually get insight into that investigatory process, often because of company privacy policies. What might seem rational to a company leader or HR representative can feel callous to the people on the other end; an opaque process that seems logical to employees when a company is investigating a scenario like a romantic relationship with a subordinate would infuriate those same workers when it seems clear that harassment or abuse are on the line.
Whitt told Protocol that the people who conducted the investigation into her allegations didn’t know her on a personal or professional level, and she believed that detachment affected the way the company treated her and how it interpreted her claims. “If it was up to my managers at various points, I don’t think they would have made the same decisions,” Whitt said.
At big companies like Apple, it’s standard practice for managers and employees not to know the people on the HR and ER teams doing the investigating. At smaller companies with a one or two-person HR and legal team, this can be a very different experience.

Grantham and the other HR leaders interviewed for this piece described harassment and illegal behavior as hard lines or “no-fly zones” that would lead to workers being fired or asked to leave. But at the same time, they said those hard lines are actually difficult to find during the course of an investigation. “I’ve been under fire in both situations for not being firm enough; the person in the HR seat can never win. Be ready to have one person disagree with you,” Grantham said. “You want the safe work environment, you want to trust what people are saying, but there’s no truth. Usually it’s somewhere in the middle.”
Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.
Abortion care is about to become a critical tech company health insurance issue.
Health and work are inextricably tied in the U.S.
Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She’s a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school’s independent newspaper. She’s based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.
This isn’t the first time tech leaders have been forced to think about abortion rights. Companies that took part in the “Texodus” have been weighing their responsibilities to employees seeking abortion since Texas passed a ban on abortion after six weeks in September 2021. But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will likely be banned in 26 states, greatly expanding the scope of companies and workers who will be impacted, despite the fact that many polls find that most Americans want Roe to be upheld.
POLITICO released a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on Monday indicating the court will vote to strike down Roe v. Wade. Undoing Roe would deal abortion access a devastating blow, and in the past few days, the draft has prompted tremendous concern about public health and digital surveillance. At a basic level, overturning Roe kicks decisions on abortion to the state and corporate level.

“In one fell swoop, this ruling not only can move decisions to states and municipalities, it moves it to corporations,” said Renee Morgan, social justice director at financial activism firm Adasina Social Capital. “Every corporation should be against this ruling that has been leaked.”
Health and work are inextricably tied in the U.S.: Workers are reliant on how companies define and select their health care policies. To be clear, low-income people are in a far worse position than corporate tech workers when it comes to abortion access. But tech companies wield an enormous amount of power and money. How they choose to respond, either by expanding health care reimbursement or even ceasing operations in a restrictive state, may set the tone for other industries.
Most big tech companies choose to self-insure their health care, allowing them the flexibility to design employee health plans. They won’t be impacted by state laws limiting insurance coverage of abortion because they fund their own plans. But covering abortion in your health care plan doesn’t mean much if employees physically cannot receive one in their state. Covering abortion-related travel is the real question for companies.
Lately, a growing number of tech companies have decided to expand coverage by reimbursing employees for abortion-related travel. Last month, Yelp announced it would cover expenses for employees and their dependents who need to travel out-of-state for abortion access. Citigroup, Apple, Match Group and Bumble have similar policies. Most recently, Amazon announced it would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses for procedures including abortions.
Employee benefits consultant Jessica Du Bois pointed out that large companies may be the only ones willing to take this step because of the legal risk. Citigroup has already been threatened on a federal level as well as by lawmakers in Texas, and could be sued because of the “aiding and abetting” clause in Texas’ abortion law.
“We are only going to see these large companies speak out,” said Du Bois. “Some of these mid-sized, smaller companies are going to wait it out to see what happens legally.”
It’s easier to commit to covering travel costs when abortion is restricted in a handful of states. But if Roe is overturned, over half of the states will be impacted. Du Bois said the best move for employers is to provide employees with a list of high-quality, lower-cost facilities in their area. Individualizing care on this level helps save money in the long run.

“Smart employers should be navigating or directing employees to those facilities and say, ‘Hey, we’ll pay for it at this facility,’” Du Bois said.
It’s also a good time to revisit how you cover abortion in general. Eliminating qualifications or criteria is critical in expanding abortion access for employees, according to Morgan.
“You provide abortion benefits in full, or you don’t have abortion benefits,” Morgan said.
If Roe is overturned, companies might be inspired to help employees evacuate permanently. Figma CEO Dylan Field tweeted an internal Slack message saying the company will “provide relocation assistance to any US employee who feels targeted or unsafe due to changes in state law.” Marc Benioff also used Twitter to signify his support for employees in Texas back in September, promising to help them leave after the state passed its restrictive abortion law. Salesforce did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment, so it’s unclear if any employees took the company up on its offer.
It’s too soon to tell whether company relocation is a real option for tech companies more broadly. Abandoning business in a state can be a powerful statement, though the political impacts are unclear and the economic impacts are controversial. Texas Monthly reported in October that there were “no signs yet of a tech Texodus”. While some more liberal-leaning tech workers might individually decide to leave, it’s unlikely that a company’s entire workforce will up and relocate.
“There are very few companies that can just pack up and leave within a year,” Megan McHugh, a medical professor and corporate social responsibility expert at Northwestern University, said. “I think the threat is potentially all that may be needed for states to reconsider.”
And some may not see the need to take any action based on abortion restrictions. While Hewlett Packard Enterprise (based in Texas) covers out-of-state medical expenses including abortion, spokesperson Adam Bauer said the company has never taken a position on abortion. HPE has no plans to leave Texas, Bauer confirmed.

Other tech companies are reluctant to commit to a strategy based on a draft decision. Dell told Protocol it would not comment on a draft opinion, and that its focus is on its “team members and supporting them with the benefits they need.” Match Group also offered no comment. Apple, Paycor, Ancestry.com and a score of other tech companies with significant presences in restrictive states did not respond to requests for comment. Companies like Yelp and Bumble condemned the draft opinion and reiterated the belief in a right to choose, but did not answer specific questions.
Recruitment and retention might be a key motivator for offering relocation options, particularly for companies looking to diversify their workforce. Candidates may not want to work for companies that don’t make up for the gap in health care left by politicians. They may not want to work in a state with laws that limit their freedoms or laws that they fundamentally don’t believe in.
“Millenials and Gen Zs right now are a real target for the tech industry,” said Yuvay Ferguson, a marketing professor at Howard University. “Gen Z is notorious from a consumer behavior standpoint for not picking companies just because they provide money: They’re picking companies more so because they find a value alignment.”
Even with unqualified abortion access and travel reimbursements, some people might be unwilling to disclose their abortion procedure with their employer. McHugh said covering abortion costs is a reasonable first step, but isn’t enough on its own.
“My concern is that if a woman is going to have an abortion, she’s not going to necessarily want to submit a reimbursement claim through her employer,” McHugh said.
Ferguson echoed this, noting that employees want to work for companies that line up with their set of values. If you’re looking to expand employee access to abortions, considering how you talk about abortion and the openness of your company culture is important.

“You’re going to start hearing stories of people waving the red flag and saying, ‘Hey, women, don’t come to this company,’” Ferguson said.
Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She’s a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school’s independent newspaper. She’s based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.
After it was called out, SafeGraph CEO Auren Hoffman said it might change its rules for how it provides data to researchers, even though he said this data “has no commercial value.”
SafeGraph CEO Auren Hoffman said that SafeGraph might consider altering its approach to data access.
Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
“I think it’s good that we were called out,” Auren Hoffman, CEO of location data provider SafeGraph, told Protocol on Wednesday.
The company was the subject of a Motherboard story published Tuesday, which reported that SafeGraph sold information showing where groups of people visiting clinics providing family planning and abortion services had traveled from, how long they stayed and where they traveled afterwards. Following the report, SafeGraph said “in light of potential federal changes in family planning access,” it would remove the data associated with family planning center locations from its online self-serve data platform and from the API through which it distributes data to customers.
SafeGraph calls the data it sells showing the locations where anonymized mobile devices move “Patterns” data. It’s the sort of information that’s been sold by location data providers for years to advertisers, real estate developers and other business customers, as well as government customers.

Because SafeGraph and other location providers gather mobile identifiers and precise, time-stamped latitudinal and longitudinal location coordinates, privacy and abortion rights advocates fear that the information could be used to detect when specific people have visited abortion clinics or other sensitive locations, particularly if only a few devices are present in a place at a given time.
But Hoffman said data showing movements to and from family planning centers has no commercial value, despite being available as part of its commercial data products. “We certainly don’t know of any commercial reasons for any of this data [about visits to clinics providing abortion services],” he said.
“The only reason is to fulfill our research mission. And none of our commercial customers care about that.” He added, “I didn’t even realize, honestly, that we had what we call ‘Patterns’ data on this.”
When asked why the company has ever made such data available commercially, Hoffman said, “Honestly, it’s a good question, so we’re reviewing it.”
However, Hoffman told Protocol that researchers interested in the data are already complaining about its removal.
“Once we decided to take it down, we had hundreds of researchers complain to us about it,” he said. “They want to see, ‘do these new laws dampen family planning visits,’ and stuff like that. And now we’re taking that data away from them.”
Hoffman said he did not know any information about specific researchers who have complained, though. “I haven’t talked to anyone myself,” he said.
Like other providers of controversial location data, SafeGraph began making its data showing where or how often people moved around the country available for free to nonprofit organizations and government agencies around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information was used as a means of assessing whether people complied with social distancing rules, for example. In general, the “data for good”-style approach also serves as a way for location data providers to deflect data privacy and security concerns about the information they sell.
Privacy concerns have gotten in the way of data access by researchers in the past. But the same considerations have been used as a convenient argument by companies such as Meta when it comes to data transparency and access to academic researchers.

Hoffman has made a point of emphasizing the need to “democratize” access to the location data the company provides. “Part of democratizing access to data means making it available in a self-serve way. But of course, making data convenient and accessible also has drawbacks. It means we aren’t able to fully control who buys the data. But we’ve never tried to censor or hide anything,” Hoffman wrote in a company blog post earlier this week.
But now Hoffman said that SafeGraph might consider altering its approach to data access. “We could say, only vetted researchers can get access to this data, whereas the broader public can get less access to the data, and that’s something we might do. So we are evaluating those types of things.”
Still, even though SafeGraph touts its commitment to data transparency by providing detailed documentation of its data online, the company will not name any of its data suppliers. In fact, for years mobile location data providers have been reluctant to name the ad exchanges, mobile app publishers and mobile data aggregators they partner with to provide the information they transform into data products and services.
“Since our beginning, we’ve been committed to transparency and providing access to high-quality places data without compromising consumer privacy,” the company wrote in a January blog post.
But when asked today whether the company would name any of the partners it works with to supply location data showing patterns of places people visit, Hoffman said he could not. Why? NDAs, he said.
Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. If you continue browsing. you accept our use of cookies. You can review our privacy policy to find out more about the cookies we use.

source

Leave a Reply